Cupid’s Carnival and Gleasons Drift

Cupid's Carnival

Cupid’s Carnival “Everything Is Love”

We don’t know where Cupid’s Carnival has been hiding (yes we do), but thanks to Kool Kat Musik we can now discover the music of Roland Skilton and Thomas Gray. The band is an overtly Beatlesque treat at every level starting with the Harrison-like slide guitar riffs on “Girl.” After a psyche-pop “The Right Time,” it runs into the McCartney-like melody of “Working Girl” and then the layered arrangements on “The Magical Mystery Tour” styled “I Was The Boy.”

Literally no bad tracks here and “Summertime” is another sunny gem before a faithful cover of Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” featuring original Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher reprising the song’s signature organ parts. The piano echoing on “Our Life” and the title track are a dead ringers for John Lennon solo style. Even the ending track “Sunny Days” liberally takes from ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky.” Luckily, the all the tunes are a combination of original composition and recognizable stylings that make it into my year end top ten list. Don’t miss this one!

Kool Kat Musik | CD Baby

Gleasons Drift

Gleasons Drift “Gleasons Drift”

Pottsville, PA band with a lot of spunk is actually on their fourth LP, and its got those riff-heavy pub rock melodies similar to The Replacements or The Stones. The opener “Mixx/REM” is almost like Southern Culture On The Skids with its rural garage vibe, and standouts “Ghost In The Corner” and “Pumpkinhead Jones” makes a great showcase for the band’s energy. However things drift into dullsville with “Stop Draggin Me Down” and “Say Goodbye.” Still, enough here to keep most listeners around like “Stag Martyr” and the catchy guitar lead on “Acquiring Satellites.”

Amazon | CD Baby

Reissues: The Turtles, The Connells

A large pile of releases await review for September, so I’ll take a few days to relax before tackling anything new, but here is a few re-issues to check out:

The Turtles

The Turtles “All The Singles”

Not long ago, I reviewed a vinyl re-issue of The Turtles and tried to bring some attention to a band that seemed to epitomize the changes in the late ’60s. But because Flo and Eddie didn’t take things that seriously, few critics understood just how talented the band was until long after they left pop music. Well if you didn’t want vinyl, you were left getting old hits CDs — but not anymore. All The Singles gathers everything a Turtle fan could want remastered on both CD or digital download. Now you have no excuses!

Amazon

The Connells

The Connells “Stone Cold Yesterday: Best of The Connells”

While REM gets the credit for starting the ’80s indie-college-rock scene, this Raleigh band has built a loyal fan base following their 1984 debut. Like REM, The Connells are also known for their jangle-pop guitars, wistful lyrics, and gorgeous melodies — a world where the childhood dreams of Boylan Heights are only a heartbeat away.

The band has worked with an amazing array of producers from Mitch Easter (R.E.M./Let’s Active) to Jim Scott (Wilco) and scored moderate hits with “Slackjawed” and “74-75.” This is their first-ever greatest hits package, collecting 16 college radio and modern-rock singles from 1987 to 1998, including their first breakthrough radio hit, “Stone Cold Yesterday.” If The Connells passed you by in that era, this is a chance to rediscover their distinctive sound. Release out 9/9/16.

Amazon

The Twilight Hours and Happiless

The Twilight Hours

The Twilight Hours “Black Beauty”

Minneapolis, MN musicians Matt Wilson and John Munson have a 20 year partnership. They started in the late ’80s with the psychedelic band Trip Shakespeare, which also featured Matt’s brother Dan (who went on to form Semisonic with John, charting a hit with the song “Closing Time”) and Elaine Harris. These veterans are back in The Twilight Hours, and Black Beauty really packs a melodic punch. 

The sound of the band is lushly produced classic pop that combines folk-roots guitars with early Beach Boys. Dan Wilson vocals are amazing as he opens with brilliant harmonies in the catchy “Help Me Find A Way,” and you’ll swear he’s part of that other Wilson family. It continues with the cascading “Maybe” a mellower tempo and the brilliant “Troublemaker” is an epic melody that adds heavy guitars for a perfect single. “Sound Waves” and “Flow” have a different structure, similar to Field Music with its sophisticated rhythm. The albums middle sags a bit, but remains compelling with folk ballads like “Rain,” and the big single “Sioux City Swinger” is a perfect summer song with layered arrangements and soaring harmonies. Highly Recommended.

Amazon


Happiless

Happiless “Happiless”

Mike Benign (Mike Benign Compulsion) teams up with Allen Keller to form Happiless, and the first song “Some People” explains the term. It’s for those who wait “for tragedy to strike. They want sympathy, they love to burst into flames and die.” The melody grows similar to “All You Need Is Love” but with a modern cynicism and misanthropy.

Several songs celebrate deep sadness with gorgeous melodies and Beatlesque arrangments. “Sleepyhead” is a fantastic ballad worthy of Badfinger and “Hopscotch Town” is a bouncy slice of pop confection. “Pill Called The Disaster” and “Stranger To Yourself” are more influenced by late ’80s Elvis Costello and Bob Mould, with its aggressive melodies. No real filler, as each track coaxes out the darkness like on “Anonymous Band” and “We Let Our Story Tell Itself.” A excellent debut from a talent pair and highly recommended.

Amazon

Seth Swirsky and The Kickstand Band

Seth Swirsky

The Seth Swirsky “Circles and Squares”

Pop Maestro Seth Swirsky is back with his third solo album Circles and Squares and right away on “Shine,” as we enter through a world of piano chords, Beach Boys harmonies and you are transported to musical bliss. The intro leads seamlessly into the title track “Circles and Squares” which is a swirling McCartneyesque melody that becomes a folk ballad midway through. “Far Away” is one of the best songs here, with an ELO-styled structure and its sweeping orchestration. “Trying To Keep It Simple” is the emotional heart of the album where he just intones “I’m trying to keep it simple. I don’t have to be a Beatle.” Indeed Seth just has to be himself to shine, as the majority of the songs are gentle romantic musings from “Belong” to the ballad “I Think Of Her.”

Strong Nilsson and McCartney vibes are visible in each composition with no filler here. “Let’s Move To Spain” has a intimate party atmosphere, and “Table” marries the Rickenbacker riffs to an easy going melody with a description of “his mess.” But as the song “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You”)” tells us, all his stuff (baseballs, gold records) means nothing without his love. Overall an adult soft pop triumph and a easy contender for best album of 2016. Don’t miss it.

Amazon | Seth.com | Kool Kat Musik

The Kickstand Band

The Kickstand Band “Summer Dream” EP

This third EP for the Detroit duo of Gordon Smith and Allison Young is one of the best this season. “Stay Inside” has a poppy bounce and strum that recalls Juice Newton, plus a great cover of The Sunrays “I Live For The Sun.” And “Fall Back” is a gorgeous tune where you can almost feel the leaves changing color in the melody. The harmonies are solid and the songs are short, catchy and memorable. Not a single dud — highly recommended. And best of all its a FREE download — so pick it up now!

Bandcamp | Amazon

Cotton Mather and Lazy Lies

Cotton Mather

Cotton Mather “The Death of Cool”

Cotton Mather’s Austin-based main man, Robert Harrison is back in a big way, converting his vision of the “I Ching” into a musical box set and The Death of Cool is his first volume in this highly anticipated release. Opening with “The Book of Too Late Changes” proves Harrison hasn’t lost a step in 15 years, with its crashing drums and sharp guitar riffs worthy of classic Who or The Raspberries. The tempo shifts with the somber country ballad “The Middle of Nowhere,” but the tone adjusts with the bouncy “Candy Lilac” full of irresistible musical touches and its sparse jangling rhythm.

One thing to note is that Harrison doesn’t stay with a certain style for long, but keeps the melodic content high for each tune. The jazz horns make the Lennonesque “Life of A Liar” erratic but very interesting. The impressive chamber pop of “The Land of Flowers” is a real gem with its gentle backing harmonies and “Waters Raging” is another highlight sounding a bit like Squeeze with its strong horns and psyche-pop flourishes. This is essential listening for power pop fans, and deserves repeat listens and stands right behind Kontiki, I look forward to the next chapter of Cotton Mather. Highly Recommended.

Amazon | Kool Kat Musik

 

Lazy Lies

Lazy Lies “Lazy Lies”

Thanks to Ray (Kool Kat) for this find. The Lazy Lies are a band from Barcelona, Spain with a sound straight out of the British Invasion circa 1965. The main vocalists are the duo of Montse Bernad and Roger Gascon and the opener “(Things Will Eventually) Backfire” is classic Beatlesque fun with a catchy Rickenbacker melody and clean harmonies. “Who’s That Sally” allows the duet to sing about a Beatle paramour who had songs written for her.

Another standout is the plinking piano of “Beautiful Morning,” a fresh, sunny chorus designed to put you in a good mood and “Feel The City Alive” is like finding a lost Monkees tune. When Montse sings alone her vocals are reminiscent of Dusty Springfield, as heard on “The Great Desire.” I feel the limitations of the period style hold this band back a bit. Still, if you are looking for a Fab Four fix, this will scratch your itch nicely.

Amazon | Ko0l Kat Musik